In the face of heightened tensions within our society arising from the escalating crisis in Gaza, DCA advocates for a compassionate response during these challenging times. As the leading voice for workplace diversity and inclusion in Australia, we believe this means fostering a workplace environment where everyone can feel safe.
It is essential we understand the impact these events have across communities in Australia, affecting individuals from various cultural, religious and racial backgrounds, including people of Jewish, Muslim and Arab or Middle Eastern backgrounds. Importantly, this requires distinguishing information from disinformation, and understanding how social media echo chambers can increase polarisation and limit public discourse.
By educating ourselves, diversifying information sources, and engaging in cross-cultural learning, we can take the initiative to understand the history, culture and experiences of this conflict.
It is imperative we understand and address the potential for increased discrimination and prejudice arising during this time – particularly Islamophobia and antisemitism.
Our groundbreaking Racism at Work report revealed a critical finding: addressing racism requires a proactive, antiracist stance, rather than mere non-racist attitudes. We cannot expect to address racism in our society unless we are willing to name it and take a preventative anti-racist approach. This also extends to discrimination.
Anti-racism efforts are not solely about reacting to specific incidents or events – they are an ongoing commitment to creating a culturally and racially safe and inclusive environment that actively dismantles prejudice and biases.
Here are a few principles to keep in mind:
- Take a human-centred approach: We all have the right to live a life free from prejudice and discrimination, and workplaces have an obligation to create an environment that ensures this. Workplaces serve as microcosms of our society, and the principles we cultivate within them have far-reaching effects on the wider community. By taking a human-centred approach to supporting employees, we can focus on recognising the dignity of each individual and promoting an environment where contrasting perspectives can coexist.
- Foster a safe environment: Individuals in workplaces bring with them a range of experiences and perspectives and may hold contradictory views. Fostering an environment of respect, understanding and inclusivity is paramount. By understanding the context and demonstrating empathy, we can create a workplace environment that is mindful of the views and experiences of all team members. Navigating conversations requires careful consideration and we can all play a part in promoting dialogues that ensure mutual respect and understanding.
- Support employees impacted: Recognise that those impacted by these events are carrying a heavy emotional burden and are likely to have been doing so for some time. This escalation in Gaza may trigger deep intergenerational and personal trauma for all groups involved. Alongside this, others may be affected by the vicarious trauma of watching this crisis unfold. It is important to provide support for all employees affected. This may include providing counselling services, creating an inclusive environment, or offering flexible work arrangements to accommodate individual needs during a challenging period.
- Centre lived experiences: It is critical that we listen to people with lived experiences and seek their input. This also requires safeguarding against inadvertent consequences when seeking lived experience feedback. Consider the process, safety, privacy and support required for each individual. Workplaces also need to be mindful about adding to the cultural load of employees, and ensure they feel safe and comfortable sharing their experiences. External organisations and lived experience advisory panels can also offer valuable guidance.
- Take a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination in all forms: While we must foster acceptance and understanding around diverse perspectives, leaders must make it known that racism and discrimination in all forms, including antisemitism and Islamophobia, will not be tolerated in the workplace. Ultimately, the aim is to create an atmosphere where individuals recognise the humanity in each other, fostering an environment that values diversity and encourages unity amid differences.
We encourage workplaces across Australia to intensify their efforts toward fostering inclusion and understanding. Let us collectively commit to building a society where everyone can feel safe and valued.
To assist you in this effort, we’ve compiled a selection of resources as a starting point.
- Racism at Work – what organisations can do to unlock and help end racism at work
- Creating inclusive multi-faith workplaces
- WordsAtWork to show how inclusive language can improve workplace culture
- DCA’s resource on Supporting an inclusive workplace in difficult times
- Amnesty International’s page on understanding the crisis in Gaza